• October 29, 2018

    George Saunders

    George Saunders

    George Saunders has sold his new book to Random House. In Masterclass, the Lincoln in the Bardo author reflects on two decades of teaching Russian authors to MFA students. According to his publisher, the book is like a “seminar in book form” that asks: “how do great stories work, how do you write them, and what are their political and moral implications?”

    Ntozake Shange, the playwright and poet who wrote the award-winning for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, has died.

    “I have the theological understanding of a third grader,” Anne Lamott says in a charming profile with the Times. “But it turns out there is room for a person like me who knows nothing. It turns out there is this hunger for people talking about spirituality from a really ecumenical position.” The “leftie guru” Lamott talks about politics, how she came to be an “inspirational writer,” and  why she originally wanted to call her new bestseller Doomed, even though it’s about hope.

    Michael Rectenwald, a professor at NYU, has outraged many of his colleagues by inviting Milo Yiannopoulos—the ultra-offensive ”conservative provocateur” and author of the alt-right bestseller Dangerous—to speak at his class on Wednesday about “the politics of Halloween.”

    Publishers Weekly has published its list of the best books of 2018.


  • October 26, 2018

    Tony Hoagland. Photo: Dorothy Alexander.

    The poet Tony Hoagland died Tuesday from cancer at the age of sixty-four. Hoagland was the author of many poetry collections, including 2003’s What Narcissism Means to Me, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. He received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and won the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award, among other honors. Critic Dwight Garner said of the poet, “At his frequent best . . . Hoagland is demonically in touch with the American demotic.”  The Poetry Foundation has twelve of Hoagland’s poems online, including “Bible Study,” which ends with the line: “And God said, Survive. And carry my perfume among the perishing.”    

    The Washington Post is beefing up their technology coverage, adding twelve new editors, reporters, and videographers

    Rebecca Solnit, Ling Ma, Derrick Barnes, and Gordon C. James won this year’s Kirkus Prizes.

    At the New Yorker, Hermione Hoby profiles Shelley Jackson, the experimental writer whose new novel, Riddance Or: The Sybil Joines Vocational School for Ghost Speakers & Hearing-Mouth Children, was published last week. Hoby calls Jackson an “advocate for the monstrous,” noting the collection of oddities in her apartment, including a taxidermied two-headed chick, a ventriloquist’s dummy, and an “ear trumpet” from the 1800s. Jackson explained: “I like things that give me the creeps. That’s really where I start writing anything—when I have a reaction that is uneasy, squeamish in some way.”

    Tonight at the New York Univeristy bookstore, author and professor Susan Shapiro will host a panel on publishing with writers, editors, and agents.

  • October 25, 2018

    Bret Easton Ellis is publishing his first nonfiction book, White, in May 2019. Ellis told the TLS that the work is “a lament from a disillusioned Gen X-er,” and that he’s turned away from fiction because, “No one really talks about novels anymore.”

    Brett Easton Ellis

    President Trump is inspiring a new wave of books about impeachment. Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee and worked on the Nixon impeachment in 1974, is publishing The Case for Impeaching Trump this November.  

    The PBS show The Great American Read has named To Kill A Mockingbird as the country’s favorite book. The network polled more than four million people on a list of one hundred titles. The novel will also be adapted for a Broadway show opening at the Shubert theater in December.    

    At The Believer, Jim Knipfel details the latest project of the avant-garde pop group The Residents: a novel, Brickeaters.

    Tonight at the Albertine bookstore in New York City, Caroline Webber will discuss her new book, Proust’s Duchess, with Edmund White. Webber’s book is a biography of the three high-society women who served as models for the Duchesse de Guermantes in In Search of Lost Time.

  • October 24, 2018

    The New York Times’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, told a CNN conference in New York that the mission of the paper hasn’t changed in the Trump era: “We seek the truth, we hold power to account and we help people to understand the world. And we’re just doing that with a different story right now.” As Erik Wemple points out, that’s not good enough for many readers, who, as a recent article by Jay Rosen in PressThink notes, have more power over the publication than ever before, and are using that pressure to urge the Times to forcefully call out Trump’s lies.   

    At the Paris Review Daily, John Wray talks about his new novel, Godsend, with Valeria Luiselli.  

    Colm Toibin

    In the Irish Times, Colm Toibin tours the streets of Dublin and writes about the city’s “peculiar intensity.” Toibin meditates on the lives of Irish writers such as Beckett, Wilde, Joyce, and Yeats, visiting literary haunts and landmarks, including the National Library: “The domed reading room has not changed since the time of Yeats and Joyce. It has the same light and layout, the same noises, perhaps even some of the same people, or maybe they just look similar.”

    The Brooklyn Public Library has announced its 2018 Literary Prize winners. The nonfiction award went to Jeanne Theoharis for A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History; in fiction, Carmen Maria Machado received the prize for Her Body and Other Parties.

    Tonight at the New York Public Library, Susan Orlean will discuss The Library Book with Paul Holdengraber; at Symphony Space, author and musician John Darnielle will host a reading of “speculative, spooky, sensational stories,” by actors including Molly Ringwald and Michael Shannon.

  • October 23, 2018

    Moira Donegan

    Moira Donegan is writing a book. The still-untitled book was bought by Scribner and will be a “primer on sexual harassment and assault as a lived experience” and explore the “moral and political challenge” that it presents for feminists.

    The Cut talks to Robbie Kaplan, the lawyer defending Donegan in the lawsuit brought against her by Stephen Elliott.

    The New York Times’s Parul Sehgal explores the prevalence of ghost stories in modern literature, which she writes is “positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition.”

    Danielle Dutton and Martin Riker talk to the Los Angeles Review of Books about Dorothy, the press they cofounded.

    Sheila Heti talks to Entertainment Weekly about choice, how gender affects her work’s reception, and her new book, Motherhood. “I think people read men and women differently and evaluate them on different scales,” she said. “There’s so much more credit given to men for their conscious artistry and hard work and for women when an artwork is great it’s because she has some like innate gift that doesn’t require her intelligence or her will or her craftsmanship. It just sort of comes out of her like blood.”

  • October 22, 2018

    Karen Russell

    Karen Russell

    The Long Black Veil author Jennifer Finney Boylan responds to Trump’s ban on transgender troops: “Even if trans issues don’t top the list of things you’re worried about, you should be appalled by the latest episode of kick-the-soldier, because it lays bare the fact that Mr. Trump is never motivated by policy, or research, or rationality. The only thing that matters to him is bigotry.”

    Karen Russell, the author of the Pulitzer-nominated novel Swamplandia, has sold two books to Knopf: the story collection Orange World (the title story of which ran in the New Yorker) and the short novel Sleep Donation, in which a near-future America is ravaged by a deadly outbreak of insomnia.  

    Rebecca Traister discusses Good and Mad, her new book about women’s anger. She notes the travesty of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation. But she also warns against despair: “I think if we didn’t feel optimism at this juncture, it would be very deadening. And what are we going to do, if we’re not going to keep fighting? I believe that continuing to fight is a moral imperative for those who want to make the country a better and more just place.”

    Angie Thomas—the author of The Hate U Give, the bestselling YA novel about Black Lives Matter—talks about the making of her book into a movie, and about her second novel, On the Come Up, which is due out in February.

    Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin is happy to talk about where he buys his hats, his favorite TV shows, and beard-grooming methods, but he does not want to talk about the next installment of his wildly popular A Song of Ice and Fire series.

  • October 19, 2018

    The Washington Post has published Jamal Khashoggi’s final column, which was sent to them by Khashoggi’s assistant and translator the day after he went missing. “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate,” he wrote in a call for press freedom in the Arab world.

    Jennifer Egan

    PEN America president Jennifer Egan explains why the organization filed a lawsuit against President Trump earlier this week. “The president has done more than vent against the press: he has threatened to use his presidential powers to stymie reporters and news organizations, and has followed through on those threats,” she writes. “Trump’s threats and actions impede the First Amendment rights of journalists and news organizations, and are therefore illegal. We are suing to make him to stop.”

    The 2018 TS Eliot Prize shortlist has been announced. Nominees include Tracy K. Smith, Nick Laird, and Terrance Hayes. Winners will be announced in January.

    The Lenny Letter website, which grew out of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s newsletter of the same name, is shutting down today.

    Milkman author Anna Burns talks to The Guardian about her Man Booker win.

    Tina Turner tells the New York Times By the Book section about ancient Egypt, Buddhism, and Jackie Kennedy. “People are always surprised to hear that Jackie Kennedy is my role model,” Turner said. “I love reading about her childhood, her time in the White House, her sense of style and even her insecurities — it is comforting that someone as seemingly perfect as Jackie could be self-conscious about her imperfections.”


  • October 18, 2018

    Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo talks to staff at the Washington Post, where columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder have pushed his colleagues “into a frenzy.” “Even people who aren’t involved in the coverage are all talking about it,” said one journalist. “How’s the administration gonna respond? What does this mean for our other overseas journalists?”

    Tana French. Photo: Kathrin Baumbach

    Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is donating $2.5 million to New York Public Radio, bringing “his total philanthropic efforts involving media in the last year to $50 million,” the New York Times reports.

    “I had been thinking a lot about the connections between luck and empathy,” said Tana French on the origins of her new book, The Witch Elm. “Lately I’ve been thinking about, ‘Okay, what about somebody who’s been lucky in every way, all along, who’s always come out on top of the coin flip?’ . . . What would that do to his ability to take on board the fact that other people’s very different experiences are, in fact, real? And then, what would happen if something happened to him that meant he was no longer on the right side of all the coin flips?”

    Following the announcement of Anna Burns as the winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize, judge Val McDermid reflects on this year’s judging process, which she calls “the best book club in the world.” “Even when we had to make our final choice, there were no ultimatums, no horse-trading, no sulking. Fuelled by coffee and chocolate, we talked our way through the shortlist one by one, itemising pros and cons,” she explained. “And after more chocolate and another hour or so, Anna Burns’s remarkable novel emerged as the one we all felt was the right choice. Then it was finally time for the champagne.”

    Tonight at Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, Nausicaa Renner talks to Meghan O’Gieblyn about her new book, Interior States.

  • October 17, 2018

    Anna Burns

    Anna Burns’s Milkman has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize, making Burns the first Northern Irish author to win. “None of us has ever read anything like this before,” said judging chair Kwame Anthony Appiah. “Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour.” The Guardian’s Claire Amistad writes that although the story, which draws on Burns’s experiences growing up in Ireland during the Troubles, “is relentlessly internalised” and lacks “conventions such as paragraphing,” the book is “a plucky and challenging one . . . that speaks directly to the #MeToo era and to political anxieties over hard borders in Ireland and elsewhere.” Graywolf has moved the book’s US publication date from fall 2019 to December 11.

    PEN America is suing President Trump in order to stop him “from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes.”

    Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is being turned into a TV show by FX.

    At the New York Times, A.O. Scott reviews Marielle Heller’s new movie, Can You Ever Forgive Me, based on “writer turned literary forger” Lee Israel’s memoir.

    At BuzzFeed News, Bim Adewunmi profiles Heavy author Kiese Laymon. “Not many people run back,” Laymon said of his decision to move back to Mississippi from upstate New York. Now a creative writing professor at the University of Mississippi, Laymon had been teaching at Vassar. “I kept writing about Mississippi but then I was like, man, I’m writing about this shit all the time but is it really home any more?” But “it was a sick grandmama and the feeling that he had outgrown Vassar that compelled his return,” Adewunmi explains. “I needed to finish my book and I just couldn’t,” Laymon said. “I came back to be closer to the place that made me and made my grandmama, it made my mama. I just needed . . . I needed help. . . . I should’ve gone to therapy but instead I came back to Mississippi.”

  • October 16, 2018

    At the New York Times, Alex Marshall talks to Val McDermid, a judge for this year’s Man Booker Prize. “We all agreed if any of us absolutely hated a book, we wouldn’t put it forward,” McDermid said of the judging process. “But we’re there to find a winner, not personal taste. We’ve all lost books that we loved along the way — that spoke to us in a very personal way, maybe due to our experiences in life or the place where we were.” McDermid and the four other judges meet today “in a secret location” in London to decide this year’s winner.

    Rebecca Ley. Photo: Jennifer Moyes

    The Guardian has awarded its 2018 Not the Booker prize to Rebecca Ley for her novel Sweet Fruit, Sour Land.

    For their pop-up blog Executive Time, Kara Swisher tells Slate about her best and worst bosses.

    The majority of San Francisco magazine’s editorial staff have quit their jobs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Although the publication recently won a National Magazine Award, parent company Modern Luxury had recently announced plans for “unspecified budget cuts.”

    “So what happened to The Outline?” asks Laura Hazard Owen of Joshua Topolsky’s struggling website. “Did it try to make the good shit and stumble by mistake into cheap shit? Did it overestimate how unique its editorial voice actually was? Or has it faced the same set of roadblocks the rest of the digital media industry has, only without much goodwill from all those cheap-shit producers?”